One hundred from diocese join 28,600+ from the U.S. at World Youth Day

About one hundred young adults and chaperones from the Diocese of Raleigh are making a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal.

They’re joining more than 28,600 individuals from throughout the United States participating in the 37th WYD gathering with Pope Francis. The U.S. is among the five largest delegations participating in WYD, which is taking place Aug. 1-6, 2023. Most U.S. pilgrims to WYD are young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Father Eric Michael Imbao, C.I.C.M. is leading a group of 23 pilgrims from the Diocese of Raleigh. Some are from St. Catherine of Siena, his home parish in Tarboro; others are from nearby Mt. Olive, Beulaville and Magnolia.

“Pilgrims will be in simple lodging where they will meet local people and get to know more their culture,” he told NC Catholics magazine a few days ahead of the journey. “Our group will experience the diversity, unity and richness of the Catholic Church present in different races, nationality and cultures.”

U.S. pilgrims will be staying in parishes, campuses, homes and hotels around Lisbon during the week of WYD, taking part in prayer and liturgies, daily catechesis, concerts, presentations, dialogue, service and networking with other young adults.

“For those going for the first time, they don’t imagine how many Catholics exist in the world,” said WYD pilgrim Gabriela Del Rio Díaz, who is also coordinator of Youth Ministry for the diocese. “The pilgrimage started in each home and each community. Each pilgrim prepared their heart in different ways. In the arrival to Portugal the Lord will have bring a message to each of them and change their life forever.”

For those from the North Carolina delegation, which includes a group from Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons High School led by Father Luke Rawicki, L.C, preparation often included Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, retreats and hikes to prepare for the amount of walking required.

Pope Francis will join pilgrims Aug. 3 for a welcome in the city center. He will also preside at a Way of the Cross Aug. 4, a prayer vigil Aug. 5 and the WYD Closing Mass, with an anticipated crowd of a million or more, Aug. 6.

“I am truly blessed to be a part of this pilgrimage and only God knows what is coming next for me,” said Manny Gonzales, a pilgrim from the Tarboro area. “World Youth Day for me is not only learning that the word ‘Catholic’ means universal, but actually living it.”

The global event began in 1986 as an initiative by [then] Pope John Paul II to bring young people from around the world together to encounter Christ and the universal Church. WYD officially takes place every year as a Global Celebration of Young People (now celebrated on Christ the King Sunday); however, every two to four years, a major international event is held in a different location around the world. Past WYDs have included Buenos Aires (1987), Santiago de Compostela (1989), Czestochowa (1991), Denver (1993), Manila (1995), Paris (1997), Rome (2000), Toronto (2002), Cologne (2005), Sydney (2008), Madrid (2011), Rio de Janeiro (2013), Krakow (2016) and Panama (2019).

USCCB Public Affairs contributed to this report.


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